Tabletop technology in restaurants

Tabletop technology and the dining experience

Reviewing the business benefits of devices diners now find at their table.

In addition to our Company’s festive event, I always look forward to a tradition within the Operations and Support department – where I personally treat the team to a meal out in the run-up to the hectic Winter schedule. This is a thank you for their tremendous efforts and support during the course of the year, with 2018 being no different.

Within walking distance of our Hampshire office is a new restaurant opening, that happens to belong to a chain that’s recently joined Caternet. This seemed a fantastic opportunity to support our client with their new opening and back a local business.

Alongside the fabulous food, what struck me most was the growing amount of front-of-house technology being used to supplement the dining experience. The use of orders being taken via a portable device rather than an old fashion waiter’s order pad is well established and now part of the culture of dining out (even though I am still never sure if they are taking my order or checking their emails!); as is fast food chains having iPads available in their seating areas for children to play games on.

Tabletop tech meets modern expectations

Pick a tune restaurant app

The option to choose what music will be played in the restaurant during your meal from your phone; being able to call for your waiter or your bill from a device on your table without that possibly awkward ‘catching their eye’ are just some of the things we experienced at the new restaurant. Having a modern take on the old-fashioned jukebox certainly added to our enjoyment of the meal and the inevitable mickey taking of some of my colleague’s questionable music taste makes the night even more memorable.

As technically-minded people, we questioned the two principal benefits for the hospitality industry. Appearing to give control of the meal’s pacing to the customer may mean they stay on for another drink, a coffee or dessert (in this case, to catch their requested songs). Controlling a meal with nudge factors, such as fear of missing out (FOMO) will always allow for upselling. Consider McDonald’s touch-screen ordering that does away with the instant ‘no’ to ‘would you like to supersize that’. Customers are now presented with an eye-level photo of what they may miss.

The data points gathered through technology inform better business decisions. Caternet’s founding principals were built around live data. For the opening weeks of the new restaurant, a picture of the most popular songs (by different artists at different times) are used to inform further sites, and can paint a profile of local trends and demographics.

Gaining from software

WTabletop restaurant technologyhilst the technology we encountered locally was subtle, the rise of tablet devices in hospitality is increasingly innovative. Much was written across the catering industry (and social traffic generated!) following a 2017 report detailing the ‘cost savings’ a US-based steakhouse franchisee had realised in requiring fewer staff, every night, per their 100+ sites. They enjoy immediate guest surveys (a 50% drop in abandonment vs those entries at home) and data gathering through the ‘we’ll email you your receipt’ screen. However, the same report presented anecdotal evidence that those waiting staff that kept their shifts were enjoying higher tips (when the tablet devices presented a flat rate of 20%). Another report showed a US-based chain saw their investment in 45,000 tabletop devices ‘more than pay for itself‘ through a 30% rise in dessert sales in the first year.

Restaurants must stay ahead and continue to reinvent themselves in these challenging times. Whether it be software to track prices across the ingredients market or technology to publish allergens to customers, as described in our recent partnership with Tenkites.

Neil Shayle is Head of Operations

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